This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Bullying prevention topic of pre-DSS event

  • Judy Shepard

Published: November 3, 2011

Next week’s Distinguished Speakers Series lecture by activist and author Judy Shepard provides the backdrop for several free events being held that day at UB that tie in with Shepard’s theme of promoting acceptance and diversity.

A pre-Shepard lecture event, “Bully Prevention: Research Highlights from UB’s Alberti Center,” will take place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in Baird Recital Hall, 250 Baird Hall, North Campus. It is sponsored by the Jean M. Alberti Center for the Prevention of Bullying Abuse and School Violence and the Civic Engagement and Public Policy Strategic Initiative.

The event is free and open to the public; those interested in attending should RSVP.

Amanda Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center, will lead the event. In her presentation, she will define the problem of bullying, share effective strategies for prevention and intervention, and highlight research being conducted to further understanding of this complex and compelling issue. It will be followed by a Q&A session.

Also that evening, a Civic Engagement and Resource Fair will be held from 7-8 p.m. and immediately following Shepard’s lecture on the first floor concourse of Alumni Arena, North Campus. The fair will feature information tables staffed by UB and community groups that are working to make Western New York schools and communities safer, among them Crisis Services, Gay and Lesbian Youth Services, the Matthew Shepard Foundation and UB’s Alberti Center.

The main event of the evening will be Shepard’s lecture at 8 p.m. in Alumni Arena.

Tickets are still available. Faculty and staff may visit the Special Events website to obtain discount vouchers provided by series sponsors UUP and TIAA-CREF.

Shepard is the author of the best-selling book “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed,” an intimate memoir describing of how her life—and the entire fight for human rights—changed in 1998 when her son, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, became the victim of a vicious murder precipitated by hatred of gays.

Shepard will join the Civic Engagement and Resource Fair following her lecture to signs copies of her book.

She turned that personal tragedy into a crusade for justice by establishing with her husband, Dennis, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which carries on her son’s legacy and works to prevent others from falling victim to his fate.

She is largely responsible for the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded hate crime legislation to include sexual orientation.

The presentation on bullying by Nickerson that will precede Shepard’s talk is the second such “pre-Distinguished Speaker Series event” to take place this year. A free public talk by two UB faculty members on new directions in Parkinson’s research preceded the Oct. 19 lecture by Michael J. Fox, the popular author, actor and advocate for Parkinson’s disease research. That presentation by medical school faculty members Jian Feng and Thomas Guttuso attracted a capacity crowd of about 220 people to the Center for the Arts Screening Room.

These pre-lecture events are part of an effort to connect UB with the topics the distinguished speakers are addressing in their lectures, says William Regan, director of conferences and special events and organizer of the Distinguished Speakers Series.

Regan explains that these pre-lecture events were the brainchild of Jean Wactawski-Wende, vice provost for strategic initiatives, who suggested last summer that the Distinguished Speakers Series could provide an excellent opportunity to increase faculty involvement in the speakers series by highlighting their research and tying it into the issues the speakers would be discussing in their lectures.

For instance, Jian Feng, professor of physiology and biophysics, is conducting research using stem cells to find the causes and, ultimately, a cure for Parkinson’s disease. The work is funded, in part, by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research—an obvious tie-in with the speaker series.

And, Regan points out, the Judy Shepard lecture naturally ties in with the Alberti Center, as well as the local case of Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old Williamsville teen who recently committed suicide after he was bullied by classmates because of his sexual orientation.

“This is an opportunity to spotlight what we’re doing here at UB. This is the new standard we want to set,” he says, noting that he expects to continue offering such presentations before Distinguished Speakers Series lectures, when appropriate.